WB school recruitment scam: ED arrests TMC youth wing leader Kuntal Ghosh
Tapas Mandal, a TMC member and another accused in the school recruitment scam, reportedly named Ghosh and another TMC leader Santanu Banerjee in the alleged scam and told the CBI that Ghosh collected money from job seekers to the tune of ₹19.4 crore.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday arrested a Trinamool Congress (TMC) youth wing leader in connection with its probe into large-scale irregularities in the recruitment of teachers in West Bengal, officials said.
Kuntal Ghosh, TMC’s youth wing secretary, was arrested after he was questioned for hours by ED sleuths, who also searched his two flats in a high-end residential society at Chinar Park on Friday.
“He was arrested on Saturday morning and later was produced in court where the court sent him to ED custody till February 3,” said an ED official, requesting anonymity.
Ghosh illegally collected at least ₹30 crore from job seekers, the agency told the court.
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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the alleged irregularities in the recruitment of non-teaching staff (Groups C and D), as well as teaching staff by the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) and West Bengal Board of Secondary Education between 2014 and 2021.
CBI began its probe on the directions of the Calcutta high court in May last year. ED is looking into the money trail involved in the case.
It has been alleged that applicants paid ₹5 lakh to ₹15 lakh bribes to get the jobs after failing the selection tests.
Kuntal Ghosh was earlier questioned by CBI three times in connection with the case. Officials familiar with the matter said that his name cropped up during the questioning of Tapas Mandal, another accused in the case.
Mandal, who is also a TMC member, reportedly named Ghosh and another TMC leader Santanu Banerjee in the alleged scam and told the CBI that Ghosh collected money from job seekers to the tune of ₹19.4 crore.
“This is Mandal’s conspiracy. He had demanded money from me. I refused to pay him and that’s why I have been framed,” Ghosh Ghosh told reporters after his arrest by ED, adding that the “TMC top brass are not aware of anything”.
The ED, however, told the court on Saturday that the amount collected by Ghosh from job seekers could be around ₹30 crore.
“The agency also seized a diary from his flat which reveals that he collected around ₹30 crore from job seekers,” said an official.
Responding to Ghosh’s accusations, Mandal said, “Why should I demand money from Ghosh? He collected huge amounts of money from job aspirants. I urged him to return the money as many didn’t get jobs even after paying.”
Mandal was president of the association of Bengal’s 625 private-run Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) and Bachelor of Elementary Education (B.El.Ed) colleges and institutions till he was named in ED’s second chargesheet in the case in December last year. ED accused him of money laundering.
He was also known to be a close associate of TMC legislator Manik Bhattacharya.
Both Bhattacharya and former state education minister Partha Chatterjee were arrested by the ED in connection with the scam last year. They are both in custody at present.
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Soon after Ghosh’s arrest, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacked the ruling party.
“These people should be kept in jails outside West Bengal (during questioning) only then they will open up during interrogation. They have been briefed on what to say during questioning,” said Suvendu Adhikari, leader of the opposition in the assembly.
He added, “They know if they tell what they have been briefed, they will get all facilities like warm water, bed and mobile phone inside the jails in West Bengal.”
Hitting back, the TMC said names of several BJP leaders have surfaced in allegations, but central agencies did not take any action against them.
TMC MP Shantanu Sen criticised the arrest of the party’s youth wing leader and said, “We have serious questions about the ED’s conviction rate and the central agency’s unbiased stand.”
“This probe is becoming like a never-ending TV serial. We all want the probe to come to an end and the guilty to be punished. We have zero tolerance for corruption,” he added.
Meanwhile, the CBI on Saturday questioned Chandan Mandal, another alleged kingpin of the scam, whose name was revealed by former CBI additional director Upen Biswas.